High school seniors from Bret Harte and Calaveras high schools, the Mountain Oaks Charter School and various alternative campuses across the county recently participated in the first On the Right Track events.
Held in April at Bret Harte and on May 30 at Calaveras High, the events were designed to prepare the next generation for successful navigation of the various organizations and agencies they will encounter after high school.
Gathered on the stadium fields at Bret Harte and CHS, members of the business community – such as banks, utility companies, real estate agencies and members of law enforcement, along with representatives from local government agencies – provided information and literature to seniors as they made their way from booth to booth.
“I think this is a great event,” said Bret Harte 2013 alumnus Charanjit “CJ” Singh, the Human Resources program assistant for Calaveras County. “I was super social and involved in Leadership when I was at Bret Harte, so I knew about some of the resources and services available, but others may not know what’s available. This is one day designed for students to meet people from all the services available in Calaveras County. It’s great, and I’m already looking forward for next year’s event.”
Developed by Staci Johnston, executive director of the Calaveras County Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Calaveras County Office of Education, Calaveras Business Resource Center, Bret Harte High School, Calaveras Unified School District and Mother Lode Job Training, the event grew out of Johnston’s experience when her daughter, attending school in Texas, called her from college in need of her birth certificate.
“She thought it was what the hospital provides upon birth,” recalled Johnston laughing. “I explained how she needed a certified copy and that would be provided at the county recorder’s office.”
From there, the idea to create an opportunity for seniors to explore various resources and interact with representatives from agencies and organizations, as well as navigate scenarios created by the team of Johnston, Business Outreach Specialist Michelle Stephens and Chamber of Commerce Director Sherri Reusche, who also serves on the CUSD Board of Trustees, began to take shape.
“Kids aren’t getting those life skills to make that jump from high school to real life, so we asked ourselves how to get them those skills and teach them where to find resources in our county since a lot of our kids stay here. The systems are big and complicated and for an 18-year-old; it can be overwhelming,” said Calaveras County Superintendent of Schools Scott Nanik. “I’m excited that we have the business community willing to partner with education to create this event.”
On the Right Track resource binders in hand, students visited booths, listened to short presentations and enjoyed brief question-and-answer sessions before being assigned a “life scenario.”
Groups of three were given scenarios that included ages, jobs and life circumstances, and were given an array of tasks, from finding housing and a job to setting up utilities, securing child care and opening a bank account, which required them to make decisions on how to seek services and meet the needs of life.
Echoing real life, once the groups successfully completed their scenarios, they had to spin a wheel for an additional random event, such as getting arrested, going back to school or getting married.
“Today provided building blocks for life and gives us a chance to learn some of the things you don’t learn in the classroom,” said Calaveras seniors Taylor Samorano and Sierra Hedstrom, talking in unison.
Bret Harte senior Seth Bakki added, “It was very interactive. I liked the hands-on element of the event.”
Such interaction was at the heart of the day, as a key goal of On the Right Track was to create a platform that engaged students with members of the community at large while working through the process of acquiring services they will need throughout their lives.
“This was an amazing opportunity for students to grapple with real world problems. They were asking great questions and dealt with significant realities,” said CUSD Superintendent Mark Campbell as he visited booths spread along the infield of the CHS track. “I’m thankful that Staci (Johnston) and her crew put the event together. There was good, deep, meaningful conversation happening between adults and students.”
Echoing Campbell, CHS senior Tim Perry concluded, “Today was cool and there was a lot to learn. I came away with more than what I came in with.”